Samsung has been at the forefront of NVMe-based solid state storage essentially since the standard’s inception. The Samsung SSD 960 Pro and 960 EVO that were released all the way back in 2016 have been among the best performing, most sought after M.2 NVMe-based gumsticks available. It’s kind of hard to believe the 960 Pro and 960 EVO have been riding high for so long in such a rapidly advancing space, but it’s true. Samsung, however, is finally ready to supplant its popular drives with the brand-new – you guessed it – SSD 970 Pro and 970 EVO series that we’re going to be showing you here today.
The Samsung SSD 970 Pro and 970 EVO are the company’s latest flagship sold state drives for high-performance desktop and mobile applications. They feature new controllers, the latest NAND, updated firmwares, and some subtle new features, all designed to boost performance and reliability. We’ve got both drives in hand and have put them through their paces on our freshly-updated test bed, alongside a quartet of competing products. But before we dive into the numbers, let’s check out some specifications…
The Samsung SSD 970 PRO NVMe M.2 series drives will initially be offered in two capacities — 512GB and 1TB. The 970 EVO, however, will be offered in four capacities, ranging from 250GB all the way on up to a beefy 2TB. We’ve got a 512GB 970 Pro and a 1TB 970 EVO to show you here.
All of the drives in both the Samsung SSD 970 Pro and 970 EVO line-ups have the same M.2 (2280) ‘gumstick’ form factor and offer peak read bandwidth of 3.5GB/s. Write bandwidth on the 970 Pro tops out at 2.7GB/s, while the 970 EVO peaks at 2.5GB/s – that’s a healthy bump up from the 960 Pro’s max of about 2.1GB/s for writes. The drives’ max IOPS ratings vary depending on queue depth, but peak at right around 500K. The drives’ endurance ratings also vary, but based on capacity, and peak at 1200TBW on the 1TB 970 Pro and 2TB 970 EVO. Endurance drops as capacities decrease, as you would expect.
All of the drives in the Samsung SSD 970 Pro series feature new, 64-layer 2-bit MLC V-NAND flash memory and a new Phoenix controller, which has a native PCIe gen 3 interface and supports the NVMe 1.3 protocol. Other details are scarce on the controller, but Samsung claims it enables enhanced performance and has improved thermal characteristics, thanks to a new nickel coating on the controller itself that helps to better dissipate heat. One of the controller’s cores is dedicated to optimizing communications between it and the host system, and the controller is clocked higher than the controllers on previous-gen drives as well, to boost peak transfer speeds and reduce latency. The Phoenix controller supports all of the features you’d expect from a current SSD, like TRIM, garbage collection, S.M.A.R.T., etc., and it supports various encryption technologies as well. Depending on the capacity, all of the drives also feature 512MB to 2GB of discrete LPDDR4 DRAM cache.
The 970 EVO differs from the Pro in that it uses 3-bit TLC V-NAND and features TurboWrite technology, like some previous generation EVO-series drives. TurboWrite essentially uses a small portion of the NAND as an SLC write buffer, which translates into improved write performance, as long as the buffer isn’t exhausted.
The TurboWrite buffer size dynamically adjusts based on the workload. With the 500GB model, for example, if the user’s dataset is under 4GB, TurboWrite uses the pre-allocated (default) TurboWrite region. If it is more than 4GB, however, the 970 EVO can use an additional 18GB dynamic SLC buffer for a total of 22GB SLC buffer. Obviously, on the higher capacity drives, the buffer can be larger. The default and dynamic sizes of the buffers are defined in the chart above.
TurboWrite should allow the SSD 970 EVO series to perform very well in the vast majority of consumer-class workloads. As you can see in the screen-capture above (taken from HD Tune using a 1TB drive), writes are much faster when the TurboWrite buffer is being utilized, but once it is exhausted, write performance tapers and becomes more erratic.
Samsung warranties the SSD 970 Pro and 970 EVO series drives for 5 years, which is very good for a consumer-class SSD. All told, if you read all of that technical jibber-jabber, the Samsung SSD 970 Pro and 970 EVO should offer better endurance, thermals, and performance than their predecessors, in a similar package. Let’s move on and find out…